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Neighbors concerned about handful of released prisoners moving in Roger Weeder, First Coast News

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A ministry that reaches out to inmates released from state prisons is expanding in Jacksonville opening its fifth transitional home.

"Prisoners of Christ" has been in the city for more than two decades and has assisted more than 2,200 released inmates. Currently it has 19 men in the program make the adjustment from jail cells to the outside world.

The home just opened on West 10th Street does have the neighborhood on edge with residents expressing concern why they were not officially told of who their new neighbors would be.

"You got to let the neighbors know that's what they want in their neighborhood," said Terrance Allen who lives next door and has called city hall and gathered petition signatures.

Allen believes the transitional home need some of kind of variance or exception. The ministry says it has never had to have one. "Prisoners of Christ" has four other homes in the city.

"Had we known it was an issue we would have gladly done that," said Dr. Stephen McCoy who heads up the ministry when asked if anyone went into the neighborhood ahead of time to share what they were doing. McCoy says since he has been back to neighborhood to address concerns.

"We are not out to be anything but good neighbors," said McCoy.

"Prisoners of Christ" he says has a selection process and screens potential clients who want to lead a crime free life. He says sexual offenders and predators are not in the program.

Dee Taylor is in the program having just been released after serving 30 months for driving under the influence convictions, three in ten years he says.

"In time they will see we are regular people trying to start all over," said Taylor when asked about the reception they are getting on West 10th.

Code enforcement says it is following up on the neighborhood's concerns about the transitional home. An inspection visit to the home is planned for later this week.

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